On Saturday, the Purdue Boilermakers went on the road for the second time this week to face the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor. The matchup looked like one of the better ones of the weekend and could have massive ramifications on the Big Ten title.
Early on, Michigan came storming out of the gates. Jordan Poole had 11 early points and Zavier Simpson applied the pressure on Carsen Edwards. By halftime, Michiagn held a 44-28 lead over the Boilermakers. In the second half, Michigan was able to withstand a Purdue comeback effort. All told, Michigan grabbed a 76-67 win.
So, what did we learn?
What We Learned:
1. Doubt the Wolverines are your own risk.
After losing so many key contributors this offseason, it was hard to tell how Michigan would move forward. The team was going to look tremendously different and would need some newcomers to step up. And while things looked good early on, Michigan needed to prove itself on the court before fans and the media would buy in.
And through eight games, things look good.
Like, really, really good.
Michigan sits at 8-0 and now has three wins against ranked opponents in Villanova, North Carolina, and Purdue. Those three all finished in the top eight on KenPom last year and lost a combined 22 games over the course of last season. These are some of the best and most consistent programs in college basketball and Michigan beat them all.
The only question moving forward will be whether Michigan can continue its exceptional play. The Wolverines are easily the favorite to win the Big Ten right now and should be in the national championship picture at season’s end. And the team figures to be a substantial favorite in every game until mid-January.
Can it all come together for the maize and blue? We will see.
2. Jordan Poole is starting to turn the corner.
Although Michigan started the season with an impressive 7-0 record, perimeter shooting has been one of the bigger concerns for the Wolverines. With players like Duncan Robinson and Moritz Wagner off to the NBA, who would be able to shoot from three-point range?
Most thought in the offseason that Jordan Poole would be able to fill that role. However, his production has been pretty inconsistent through seven games. He failed to score double-digits in four of the team’s first seven games and wasn’t as noticeable as some would have hoped to see from the sophomore guard.
But on Saturday, Poole put up a show.
During the course of the afternoon, Poole put up 11 early points and finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and one rebound. And this comes after scoring 18 points and going 5-for-8 from three-point range on Wednesday night against North Carolina.
There’s still a long way to go, but if Poole continues to show up like he did on Saturday night, Michigan’s going to be one of the toughest teams to beat this season. We’ll have to wait and see if the magic continue.
3. Don’t panic on the Boilermakers just yet.
Heading into this season, Boilermaker fans knew that this team could have some early hiccups. With so many key contributors leaving the program, it could take months to get things rolling for the team. And through eight games, that has been the case.
But even though Purdue sits at just 5-3 and without any marquee victories, it’s not time to panic on the Boilermakers just yet. The team narrowly lost to Virginia Tech and Florida State away from home and fell to a red hot Michigan squad. Simply put, none of those losses are exactly terrible. And none of them are particularly damaging for Purdue’s resume.
Unfortunately, things won’t get much easier moving forward. Purdue gets Maryland at home on Thursday and will then travel to face Texas on the road. If the Boilermakers lose both of those games, fans might have to start getting a little uncomfortable. But until then, fans shouldn’t panic just yet.
4. Purdue needs to figure out some things defensively.
Basketball is never decided on one side of the floor, but it’s hard to be satisifed with what Purdue did defensively on Saturday afternoon. The Boilermakers struggled to guard the perimeter and consistently lost Michigan’s off ball players.
And while Michigan’s offense is a formidable group, it’s not even the team’s strength. Michigan has been a defensively driven team for quite some time and Michigan only had the nation’s 25th best offense entering Saturday. Nonetheless, Purdue had significant difficulty in slowing down the Wolverines
What might even be more concerning is that Purdue tried to mix things up, too. Purdue tried to sell out on the perimeter and moved lengthy forwards on Michigan’s guards to try and prevent easy shot opportunities. But the team just gave up opportunities elsewhere.
Purdue can still accomplish some great things this season, but the team will need to make some improvements on the defensive side of the floor first.
It was quite the afternoon for Michigan as it cruised to its second straight win over a ranked team. Meanwhile, Purdue once again fell short against a marquee opponent.
Michigan will now prepare for a game on the road against Northwestern on Tuesday and Purdue will host Maryland on Thursday.